Customer Review

May 13, 2010
This predictable book betrays the author's eagerness to conform to the academic fashions of the day. Its predictable thesis is that "Pappus was not operating in a vacuum" (pp. 89-90); rather he had an "agenda" (e.g., p. 169) to "augment his prestige" (p. 200), etc., etc. In other words, the usual staple thesis of the pomo generation of historians. One impatiently awaits the day when the sterility and mediocrity of such flavour-of-the-month scholarship will be recognised. A typical passage may illustrate its futility:

"It is remarkable, I think, that in the case of book 4 the reader is left to fend for himself through a text difficult to understand even for skilled mathematicians ... while, in the case of book 5, the reader is not even expected to be acquainted with one of Archimedes' most famous discoveries ... These marked double standards ... can only be explained on the basis of two different kinds of intended readership." (p. 73)

There you have it---groundbreaking revelations of cutting-edge science-studies research: some guy wrote for different audiences in different styles. If you find this "remarkable" then you're in for a treat.

As an additional illustration of Cuomo's tasteless catering to the establishment, we may quote the very first sentence of a section called "Mathematics and the stars":

"That astrological texts could be fruitfully used by ancient historians was an idea first put forwards by Lynn Thorndike, revived by Ramsay MacMullen and later applied with interesting results by Tamsyn Barton." (p. 10)

I for one would prefer if Cuomo put substance first and incestuous scholarly accolades and pedigrees second. But since Cuomo is clearly more concerned with fitting in with her peers than with addressing interesting and important historical questions, her backwards approach makes perfect sense.
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